Agriculture sector encouraged by salaries and enrolments

By: Anna Game-Lopata

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Salaries in the agricultural sector have increased an average of 5.75 per cent in 2012-13 complementing a 15 per cent jump in enrolments in the same period.

Agriculture sector encouraged by salaries and enrolments
Data shows enrolments in Australian agriculture courses have spiked 15 per cent in 2013

Agriculture recruitment specialist Rimfire Resources says salaries in the sector have remained a good 2-4 per cent above CPI at 2.5 per cent in the last 12 months.

Rimfire Resources Director Nigel Crowley tells NFM benchmarking of predominantly 130 companies shows salaries for forestry roles saw the greatest growth of 12-13 per cent in the period.

Salaries for commodity related roles also climbed strongly by 7-8 per cent.

Crawley is coy about figures for other parts of the sector saying salaries relevant to specific roles are confidential.

Meanwhile Australian Council of Deans of Agriculture (ACDA) data shows enrolments in Australian agriculture courses have spiked 15 per cent in 2013.

This is significant given ongoing concern in the industry over falling enrolments and skills shortages in the industry.

In 2012, a report undertaken by the Allen Consulting Group found enrolments in agriculture declined from approximately 4,500 to below 2,500 students nationally over the last decade.

In the same year, the Senate Committee for Education Employment and Workplace Relations reported agricultural skills shortage could hamper Australia’s ability to keep up with growing global demand for food and fibre.

Nigel Crawley says the 15 per cent jump in enrolments this year can partially be attributed to the hard work undertaken by industry bodies and government to address the issue of skills shortages and talent attraction in agriculture.

Crawley points to the development of an online resource in 2011, ‘Career Harvest’ as one of the initiatives he believes will help.

Sponsored by NAB Agribusiness Career Harvest is a joint initiative of Rimfire, the Australian Council of Deans of Agriculture (ACDA) and the redhanded Communication Group.

It is designed to encourage young people to consider a career in agribusiness, and provides a comprehensive and detailed account of the exciting range of professional careers in agriculture, horticulture, animal production, fisheries and forestry.

Crowley says a particular challenge is getting this information to people outside of the traditional farming areas.

"Agribusiness isn’t just about physically working on the land," he says,

"As with any business, it has openings in areas like accountancy, human resources, marketing and sales but, if you don’t have a rural background, you may not think to look.

"Career Harvest aims to help young people across Australia to make informed decisions."

Crawley adds coming out of a drought cycle into a ‘food boom’ has also made a career in food production more attractive.

"We hope [the rise in enrolments] is the start of a trend," he says.

"The challenge now is ensuring that all of these students complete their degrees and retain their interest in working in the sector."

Nationally, one-third of Australian universities offer places in agriculture-related courses at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels, with most universities offering related courses in business and science fields.

Prior to this year’s federal election, Agriculture units of study received the highest rate of Government funding at $20 284 per Commonwealth Supported Place in 2012.

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